The Gaza War – what should or could happen next

Layla Moran in her webinar to over 1,000 Party members last Thursday gave us much to think about. Layla reminded us that what often distinguishes us as Liberal Democrats is our strong sense of empathy and humanity, which naturally leads to a respect for human rights and international law. It is difficult not to be traumatised by the horrors we are witnessing on our screens day after day and feel heartfelt sympathy for the victims themselves, their surviving friends and family, and especially those who are here in the UK, worrying about their family members being held hostage by Hamas, being subject to a barrage of missile attacks or who are being bombed to eternity.

The immediate aim must be a ceasefire, to negotiate the release of the hostages, allow access for humanitarian aid such as medical supplies, food and water and stop the horrendous military onslaught and collective punishment of the civilian population of Gaza. This is a humanitarian catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and conditions are going to deteriorate further as winter approaches. The death toll is over 10,000 and increasing daily. These are not numbers, they are sons, daughters, brother, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles – they could be your family, your friends.

The medium-term aim must be to get peace negotiations underway. Peace is far from an impossible goal where there is a political will to achieve it.

Since the 1993 Oslo Accords and the subsequent assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, there has been no serious attempt by an Israeli politician to move towards peace with the Palestinians, but in 2002 Arab Countries came together and proposed the Arab Peace Initiative. This required Israel to accept a two-state solution in return for recognition of Israel’s right to exist and normalisation of relations with Arab States. The Palestinian Authority, then led by Yasser Arafat, embraced the initiative. It received little support from Western nations and was rejected by the then ruling Likud Party. Benjamin Netanyahu, who is a member of the Likud Party and has been a dominant political figure in Israel since 1996, has resisted all attempts to reach a lasting solution to the conflict. In fact, Israel has accelerated its settlement expansion in the Palestinian Occupied Territories over this period. Furthermore, the Knesset passed a law in 2018 which downgraded the rights of Palestinian citizens in Israel, a development which led Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and many Israeli human rights organisations, including B’Tselem, to categorise Israel as an Apartheid Regime, using the agreed international definition of this term.

The path to peace is there and it takes political will and courage to tread it. Successive British and American governments must accept a lot of the blame for their complicity in Benjamin Netanyahu’s crimes against the Palestinians – supplying Israel arms to maintain the illegal occupation and allowing serial and continuing breaches of international law, human rights and war crimes.

For there to be progress towards a lasting peace, Palestinians need to replace the ideology of Hamas with a renewed desire for a political solution and elect new Leadership to negotiate on their behalf. For the Israelis, it means removing Benjamin Netanyahu from office and electing a Leader who wants peace and is prepared to recognise Palestinian rights and desire for autonomy. For the international community, it means signalling that they will not continue to fund and support those who live by violence on either side and instead use their power and influence to force both communities to agree a fair and peaceful solution. What we need is courage, hope and unity, the question is can our Leaders rise to the challenge?

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24 Comments

  • Miranda Pinch 9th Nov '23 - 11:20am

    This morning on BBC Radio 4 Jeremy Bowen asked an Israeli commander, “If they hated you before, won’t they will hate you more now?”
    Layla had pointed out that you can kill a military machine or a terrorist cell, but you cannot kill an ideology born out of terrible injustice with military might. Every child that crawls out from under the rubble is sadly more likely to grow up even more extreme.
    The way to destroy Hamas is to give the Palestinians the chance of some justice: a state of their own, autonomy, security and self-dermination. Israel openly and repeatedly refuses them that. That needs to change now.

  • David Freeman 9th Nov '23 - 11:21am

    Long term peace will not be achieved by an immediate ceasefire. The destruction of Hamas by the Israeli Defence Forces is the only hope for long term peace. A ceasefire only benefits Hamas in its aim of the destruction of Israel. Thankfully Israel will not be calling a ceasefire soon, its fighting a war for its existence, Once the military capability of Hamas has been destroyed a new start can happen for the people of Gaza under leaders who will put their lives first rather than putting them at risk of death.

  • It’s time we looked at the escalating violence of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in context. As Anne-Marie makes clear, history didn’t begin October 7th 2023. As readers will know, the events that led to the current war in Gaza stretch much further back than the Oslo Accords. Looking at the context shouldn’t be about apportioning blame, but it must inform the peace process. It is inevitable now that Israel will have to accept the two-state solution. Continuing to bomb Gaza in advance of peace talks makes no sense, and will benefit no-one.

  • I am utterly disheartened by everything. I don’t think the military destruction of Hamas is possible, though I can see why prospect of it would offer hope to some. We all talk about a 2 state solution because there is nothing else, not because it isn’t more distant than ever. Violence on the West Bank is escalating.

    Israel could, and I believe would, vote for a government willing to agree peace if it was on offer. The problem is what leader exists on the Palestinian side who would be willing and able to offer peace? How do we even get to a position where such a leader could be found and elected? If the answer is security concessions from Israel in the face of continued violence – that ain’t gonna happen, and it would just energize the violent if it did.

    Maybe Hamas can be weakened to the point that elections could be held in Gaza. Maybe… (Maybe Hamas can be weakened by a change of heart in Iran, but that is another topic.)

  • Jenny Barnes 9th Nov '23 - 11:37am

    “and you know that peace can only be won
    when we blow them all to kingdom come,
    it’s a one two three what are we fighting for
    don’t ask me I don’t give a damn…”
    Country Joe & the Fish on the Vietnam war

  • Nigel Quinton 9th Nov '23 - 3:18pm

    I thought Layla’s webinar was one of the most powerful communications I have listened to in recent years, she has been a tower of strength in the last few weeks, speaking truth and peace to anyone who will listen.

    The line that I feel most politicians are falling over, is Israel’s right to defend itself. What are the limits to that ‘right’? The Israeli line is that Hamas must be destroyed in order to prevent a repeat of October 7th, and from that comes aerial bombardment on a scale even greater than US operations in Iraq.

    But surely, what is needed to prevent another October 7th is proper defence of Israel’s borders, and a commitment to a two state solution. It was Netanyahu’s well documented encouragement of Hamas, and his failure to police the Gazan border with attention instead directed to protection of illegal settlers in the West Bank, which enabled the awful atrocity on October 7th. We have to call him out on this and demand a ceasefire.

  • Knowing the history of Jewish immigration to Palestine under Ottoman and British rule is important context as are the catastrophic consequences of the holocaust, the 1947-48 Arab Israeli war, the six day war of 1967, the Yom Kippur war of 1973-74 and the many failed peace initiatives.
    An independent Palestinian state was offered to Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 by Israeli PM Ehud Olmert Abbas admits he rejected 2008 peace offer from Olmert That was a real opportunity missed, but it forms the basis for what might still be possible although many of the Jewish settlements established in the occupied West bank since that time would have to be forcibly evacuated. Israeli PM Lapid backed a two state solution last year Israeli PM Lapid backs two-state solution with Palestinians
    I agree with the author that no lasting peace can be achieved while Hamas remains in control of Gaza and Benjamin Netanyahu remains in office. Hamas cannot be removed by elections. The IDF must do that with military action directed against the Hamas militia. Netanyahu can be removed by elections. The Israeli voters must do that.
    Abbas failed the Palestinian people in 2008. This maybe the last opportunity he has to cement the Palestinian Authority as the rightful representative of the Palestinian people and a reliable partner in delivering a two state solution as an alternative to a wider war across the middle-eat drawing in Iran and its proxies.

  • Nigel Jones 9th Nov '23 - 3:40pm

    Thank you Ann-Marie for your article and Nigel Quinton for pointing out the mistaken view of Israel, US and UK on self-defence. Israeli action is based on vengeance. We need to say (and Ed has not yet said it) is that the secretary general of the UN was spot on to say this have not happened in a vacuum. In not saying that, we are not standing by our Liberal values and I am getting impatient with our party leader on that.

  • John McHugo 9th Nov '23 - 5:04pm

    @Joe Bourke – I’m not sure you intended this, but you imply the article you link in The Times of Israel criticised Abbas for not accepting Olmert’s proposed deal. I read it differently. Abbas said that if Olmert had been able to give the negotiations the time they needed, and allowed him (Abbas) to study the maps properly (and no doubt consult with others), a deal might have been reached.

    Olmert was under pressure at the time, especially because of his corruption trial, but his approach smacks of the arrogance with which Israeli leaders have so often approached negotiations with Palestinians – here is the deal, accept what we are offering, consider yourselves lucky we are so generous, and waive all your other rights. Whatever the case, I agree with you that it looks like a big opportunity missed.

    My personal view is that the main problem lies in Israeli refusal to acknowledge Palestinian rights and prepare their public opinion to do so. If that had happened, the peace camps would have been able to undercut Hamas etc.

  • Olmert has resurfaced in an interview with Politico. He is highly critical of Netanyahu A broken Netanyahu is miscalculating over Gaza, former Israeli PM says
    “If Israel produced a serious proposal for two-state negotiations it would have a dramatic impact on the international community. It would give us more space and time to achieve the aims of our military operations — it would have an impact on public opinion in Western countries and in the media. It would show Israel is committed to doing something it hasn’t wanted to in the past 15 years. So, something positive could come out of all of this. But we’re not doing it, and no one wants to think about it. No one wants to spell it out. No one wants to say it.”
    Fundamentally, Olmert suggested, the problem was now that Netanyahu is “in the state of nervous breakdown. I’m not exaggerating. He’s being squeezed from all sides and his focus seems to be stopping being thrown out of office the day the war stops and even maybe before then,” he said.
    “You expect him now to talk about the second phase and the third phase. He’s not certain he will survive politically this phase,” Olmert added.

  • Joe Bourke,

    You mention Jewish immigration to Palestine under the Ottoman Empire. In 1914 only about 59,000 Jews lived in Palestine 9.9% of the population. According to the 1920 census there were 83,700 (11.1%) Jews living in Palestine. As John Waller says there are about 7 million Jews and 7 million Palestinians living in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. There are over 2.8 million Palestinians living in the neighbouring countries. There has to be a fair peace. Even if all of Gaza and the West Bank were allocated for the Palestinians it would still mean that the Palestinians would only have 23% of the land.

    The terms offered by Ehud Olmert would mean a Palestinian state having only 22.88% of the land. It was not based on the Arab Peace Initiative, which any peace must do at the least. I agree with John McHugo that there was an expectation that the Palestinians should “accept what the Israelis were offering”. It would be good if they offered more than 23% of the land. A fair and just peace would end the appeal of Hamas.

  • Mark Frankel 10th Nov '23 - 8:56am

    The mass murders of 7 October are the latest instance of the 100 years of belligerence, intransigence and treachery on the part of the Palestinian leaders, firstly against the Balfour Declaration and then against the state of Israel. Sadly, there is only one solution, which is containment.

  • The question we should be talking about is what we should do. I can see no purpose in choosing sides. We could start with talking about how we should promote peace in the world, and this would take an investment in education and research for us. We might start by talking to, and learning from the people of Israel and Palestine, and as a number of people have commented here making sure there is greater understanding in our country in the role our country has had in bringing about the present situation,

  • Helen Dudden 10th Nov '23 - 9:31am

    Our country is in a sorry state. More should be done to resolve issue’s within countries to be self sufficient and liveable.

  • This is a very worthy academic debate about what other people should do. What’s missing from this debate is any empathy for Israeli citizens. The attacks by Hamas targeted women and children, when they could easily have been spared. Eliminating future generations is a hallmark of genocide. If that had happened to you, or your family, in the UK, you’d be demanding some form of military action to prevent it happening again, not an opportunity to negotiate with people who want you dead.

  • Thank you for speaking out firmly. I have no doubt our leaders CAN rise to the challenges, it’s a question of courage, clear-sightedness and will, as sometimes demonstrated by Layla Moran. Israel’s continuing bombing campaign is catastrophic – not just for Palestinians and Israelis (as it certainly can’t finish off Hamas). But it’s also fanning the flames of extremism on our home territory. In the absence of a Lib Dem presence/leadership, protests in the name of peace and humanity will be taken over by those with very illiberal values (or banned altogether).

  • Michael BG,

    In 1920, the British Government’s Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine stated that there were hardly 700,000 people living in Palestine:

    “There are now in the whole of Palestine hardly 700,000 people, a population much less than that of the province of Gallilee alone in the time of Christ. Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians. The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000. Almost all have entered Palestine during the last 40 years. After the persecutions in Russia forty years ago, the movement of the Jews to Palestine assumed larger proportions. Jewish agricultural colonies were founded”.
    As well as Jewish immigration, there were high levels of Arab immigration to mandate Palestine from other Arab states between 1920 and 1948 as the area was developed economically under British administration and by an influx of Jewish capital and migrants. There was ongoing violence against Jewish communities during this period and growing antisemitism throughout the 1920/30s culminating in the Arab revolt against British rule and Jewish immigration in 1936.
    By 1948, the population had risen to 1,900,000, of whom 68% were Arabs, and 32% were Jews (UNSCOP report, including Bedouin)”.
    The State of Israel has Internationally recognised borders based on the 1949 armistice line (the Green line). Any land swaps agreed by Israel and the Palestinian leadership on forming a two state solution must start from that basis. The actions of Hamas (a designated terror organisation) on 7th October and continued holding of hostages should have ended the appeal of that death cult. Unfortunately, the actions of Israel against the civilian population of Gaza in response to the atrocities committed by Hamas will ensure that the appeal continues.

  • @Joe Otten To your point about elections and whether they might be held in Palestine. Obviously it’s impossible at present. Palestine legislative elections were planned in 2021 and were to be followed a short while later with Presidential elections. Hamas were not expected to do particularly well and new democratic groups were emerging. Netanyahu refused to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to vote and so Abbas cancelled the elections. Abbas should have stood firm and got the support of the international community to put pressure on Netanyahu to back down – but perhaps he wanted an excuse to hang on to power. It was a great pity and frankly it would be good to see both Abbas and Netanyahu replaced by leaders who could work towards peace.

  • Alastair Crooke, a British diplomat and M16 operative who knows the Middle East well, did an interview yesterday that paints a grim picture. The first 5 minutes or so is about developments in the Ukraine followed about 25 minutes on Gaza. It’s about 30 minutes but listenable at 1.75x.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Nov '23 - 7:53am

    “The actions of Hamas (a designated terror organisation) on 7th October and continued holding of hostages should have ended the appeal of that death cult. Unfortunately, the actions of Israel against the civilian population of Gaza in response to the atrocities committed by Hamas will ensure that the appeal continues.”
    Exactly. As I understand the population of the Gaza Strip is getting on for half children. They won’t have voted for hamas in 2006.

    But how many of the surviving ones may become hamas supporters – as a result of not only Israel’s actions in Gaza after Oct 7 but also the Israeli settlements in the West Bank?

  • It was only with western support that Israel decided that it could respond to the atrocities last month in the way it is doing. Palestineans in Gaza will need help to create a society that is peaceful, prosperous and free from outside influence once hostilities cease. For now maximum pressure needs to be placed on Israel to ensure its occupation of Gaza is as short and free of blood shed as possible.

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